Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation Find a Home in Louisiana

Image by Woodley Wonderworks

On July 9, I wrote about the Imagination, Creativity and Innovation (ICI) Summer Institute, a professional development event for Louisiana teachers that took place in June and was hosted by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development/Division of the Arts. The state has now announced, to my delight, that it will pilot its ICI Initiative—“developed to nurture creativity and advance 21st-century skills in every learner through an arts-integrated education”—in eight schools, starting this 2010-2011 school year. This initiative was born as a response to “Act 175,” a bill the Louisiana Legislature passed in 2007 to create a mandate for arts education. The press release announcing the new pilot program cites the positive outcomes in other states that have integrated the arts into classrooms: “increased student achievement, increased attendance by students and staff, increased rates of retention, improved school climate, greater parent participation, and building a sense of community around the school.” Indeed, Lincoln Center Institute has seen many studies that confirm these claims (including The Center for Arts Education’s “Staying in School,” which focuses on New York City high schools and which I blogged about back in November 2009). Another exciting aspect of Louisiana’s plan is that students will encounter new artistic disciplines each year, all of which will be incorporated into their language arts curriculum. Finally, in keeping with LCI’s belief in a balance between imaginative learning and accountability, “outcomes” will be “linked to state and national standards.” I can’t wait to see what happens here!

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Create to Graduate

graduation cake

Image by CarbonNYC*

For anyone interested in the work of LCI, we present some exciting news: The Center for Arts Education (CAE) has just released “Staying in School,” a groundbreaking report that is the first ever to examine the link between arts education and high school graduation rates in New York City public schools. Data collected by the NYC Department Of Education from more than 200 schools over two years tells us that those “in the top third in graduation rates offered their students the most access to arts education and the most resources that support arts education” (2). What accounts for the connection? By sparking students’ imaginations, by giving them means to express themselves, by leading them into creative collaboration with their peers, the arts engage young people who might otherwise become drop-out statistics. The report concludes helpfully with several positive policy recommendations, including expanded course offerings in the arts, the hiring of certified arts teachers, and the provision of ample classroom space for arts instruction (20-21). We at LCI applaud the exhaustive research and analysis undertaken by CAE, an organization that has served the children of NYC since 1996. The writing (or painting or acting or dancing or music) is on the wall: schools—not just here, but across the country—must integrate the arts into their curricula if we are to end “the national graduation crisis” (5) once and for all.

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.